Jeffrey Collins is an Ohio-based painter who does highly textural works that are inspiring and moving http://www.jeffreycollins.us/index.html. However, Jeffrey is also inspired by another passion that involves documenting the work of other prolific artists on film. Needless to say, both give us plenty to chat about.
MICHAEL: Hey Jeffrey, I love your work. It's abstract and VERY educated. What kind of insight inspires your work? What's going on in your mind when you're creating?
JEFFREY: Well, I think I find inspiration in the same places a lot of other realist painters find it; in nature or a nice paint job on a car – you find inspiration in all kinds of places. Brice Marden once said in an interview, "Good red, yellow and blue situation at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel." I can remember walking through the park during autumn and finding lots of leaves and wanting to make paintings in those very colors. In the end though, it usually comes from just messing around with materials. Maybe a bit more black to tone this color down. Ok now a bit of white to gray it up. It just comes from playing with paints until something grabs the eye and you suddenly feel it. There needs to be a painting with this color in it. It's a very intuitive process. I feel much more in tune with my own work because I listen to how it wants to be. The only things going on in my mind when I am creating, well I honestly couldn't tell you since I'm not paying attention. It's all auto-pilot type stuff, just feeling, using the senses we were born with. If I put too much thought into things, I feel it will mess with the nature of the painting. I don't wanna make it scientific.
MICHAEL: I understand completely. I feel the same way about writing. Still, your work is also very textural and sensual. How do you create that?
JEFFREY: It's a wonderful product by Elmer's called Wood Filler. Though lately, I have been experimenting with other materials in an attempt to create the same effects with more art-related products. The wood filler is great for creating texture, but it has a few downsides that I have been working through.
MICHAEL: What does creating texture allow you to express? Is it just for visual interest or is there narrative or possible symbolism attached to texture for you?
JEFFREY: I really try to shy away from adding things where there isn't. I don't like to add symbolism to my work. It simply is what it is. My work has nothing to do with a heroic methodology and it has nothing to do with social issues. It is this in itself which makes the work difficult to speak about. The texture is a bit of a topographical way to get into the color, for if I didn't have it, the paintings wouldn't work the way they do.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world and the art market and how they function today?
JEFFREY: Well, For me, right now, It doesn't matter to me about the art market. It is nice when I see a fellow colleague sell a painting or sculpture. And it's really nice when I sell something. When I take an overview of the market, I see a lot of people who really don't spend their time to search out the good stuff. I see a lot of great art that seemingly goes un-viewed and I say that as I believe for me that if they were to spend time looking with their eyes and hearts instead of just their pocketbooks, there would be a lot of big selling great art and not just one or three living artists. I am not really the person to ask about this, as I'm pretty damn far away from the art world. While people say it's getting smaller, that's true, but only to a certain extent. If you don't live in the NY area, you are still missing out on so much. I can't tell you how many exhibitions I wish I could have attended and filmed for my project, but I can't because I'm in Ohio and it's quite a chunk of change to keep going back and forth. When I do get to visit, I am so bombarded by exhibitions that it seems to take me until I get back home to really reflect. There's just so much going on in NY that it's like getting a big dose of Vitamin B every day, so much adrenaline going on there.
MICHAEL: Jeffrey, you have just made a tremendous point. If people really considered art with their eyes and hearts instead of wallets (as often directed by art insiders), so MANY other living artists would benefit. This is why I do what I do. I believe things are intentionally structured this way. What do you think?
JEFFREY: I can only hope they aren't intentional, but for some artists you can't help but believe that's what the galleries are doing for them. I've been doing my film for the last two years now and it's been quite the experience. I can't wait to do more. I'm hoping to do another filming trip in April and will be getting a bunch more interviews then. I know you know of it Michael, but for the rest of the world it's called, "WHO'S AFRAID OF RED YELLOW AND BLUE." I know this film will outlast us all and I'm only hoping it brings more attention to all the artists involved, as I believe in their work and feel very strongly about it. Thankfully, all of 'em have been really happy with it too. I'm sure this project will have all the impact and more that “PAINTERS PAINTING” did. Granted that film came out in the 70's when there wasn't much distribution for art documentaries. This film, I am positive, will have a significant impact on those "art world insiders."
MICHAEL: Tell me more about your documentary.
JEFFREY: It’s the culmination of dreams I have had for ten years. Since the first time I saw Emile De Antonio's film, “PAINTERS PAINTING,” I have wanted to make a new version of it. Something that really gave you more of a sense of the artists and their lives than any other documentary would or could. I watched De Antonio's film a hundred times and eventually realized I could do the same, but with better camera work. One thing that always bothered me about his film was, where are the extras? There never seemed to be any outtakes and I knew there had to be. So that was immediately one of the first things I decided on. Also, all of the footage from my film would always be available for people to learn from. I finally decided to begin my project in January 2011, but to begin without any funding and being an unknown guy in Columbus, Ohio, didn't allow me much opportunity. But like the saying goes...when the going gets tough. So, I had a few known artist friends. I asked them if they would be interested in something like this. They said yes, and I moved on from there. Now, the beginning of my third year into this project and I have 17 interviews I have done on my own. There is no other camera crew or anything for this, just me. I have been allowed into many wonderful artists lives and filmed them with respect. I was even given the opportunity to fly to Max Cole's place in California to do our interview out there. We had originally planned to do it in NY where she was living when we made our original arrangements. That was so awesome Michael. Such a feeling of accomplishment to be traveling that far to meet, hang out with and film a world famous artist. I've had the privilege to interview people like John Zinsser, Forrest Myers, Rodney Dickson, Louise P. Sloane, Ronnie Landfield and my favorite person to interview so far, who has let me film him a number of times, Peter Reginato. I think I've filmed Peter more than anyone so far. He's a fascinating person and totally down to earth.
MICHAEL: Yes, I have also interviewed Peter. He’s great. How would you say communicating so closely with other artists has affected your own work and life? What have you learned?
JEFFREY: Well, on my personal art; I have been able to bring work into NYC and have people view it in person which otherwise they would have never been able to do. It's always way better to let people see paintings in person, especially since afterward they can then extrapolate how a new painting might look in person. Getting people to see the work in person has been a big hassle for me and just in the last year I have been pushing myself to let more people see the paintings in person, which has given me the opportunity to be in my first NY exhibition at Sideshow Gallery in Brooklyn, for the Sideshow Nation exhibition. It has been a mind blowing experience to get to meet, learn from and eventually befriend these wonderful and amazing artists. I've always been one of those people who think that there's no reason to meet their influences, because what if the person is a real ass, and then you don't like their work anymore. It come from childhood into adulthood with me, so I'm usually pretty guarded about things like that. It’s funny because most of the people I have met would probably say I'm an incredibly outgoing person. Maybe I am and just don't realize it. But given that, these artists and writers have all been very cool with me, even to the point of giving me a place to stay when I am in town. So it's wonderful, not only do I get to interview them, but we really get to know each other. It's been an awesome way to cement what I hope will be friendships for life.
Another thing about affecting work. I got to meet Painter Joseph Marioni many years before beginning this film project. Seeing his studio and how organized everything was, made me wanna be more organized in my studio too and I really think that desire for professionalism has really helped me numerous times. Gotta be prepared for what comes up in the work. I know a few times I haven't been and I run out of paint right in the middle of finishing a painting, oh that sucks. But you need to fully prepare yourself, especially if you use a LOT of product like I do.
MICHAEL: Most people walking the planet do not have a personal relationship with art. So what's the point of it? Most people won't ever buy an original piece of art from a living artist and won't walk into a gallery. What's the point?
JEFFREY: You came to the right person with that question. I have been painting seriously for around 13 years now. Not much of what others would consider a career, but yet I keep on painting, developing my abilities and style. I personally believe I am making my best paintings right now. I have grown massively in the last three years and because of that, I believe it's paying off. As for having people find your work, I actually found my first collector from an accident I had at a job. He was my chiropractor, bought two paintings from me. It was wild to find him in that manner, and it really came from talking to one of the therapists about my art. She actually showed it to the doctor, and he asked to come out and see the work. The point of being an artist is to make art and to keep on progressing. I quote Louise Bourgeois, "Artists are not made, they are born that way, there is very little you can do for them." And to finish with a Barnett Newman quote, "Painters paint, so they'll have something to look at, just as writers write so they'll have something to read."
MICHAEL: Absolutely Jeffrey. Thanks. This has been fun.
Check out Jeffrey Collins at http://www.jeffreycollins.us/index.html.